New Delhi: Junior minister for health Ashwini Choube has triggered controversy with his suggestion that patients from Bihar should be treated at Patna's All India Institute of Medical Sciences and not the premier institute in Delhi. Ashwini Choube is a legislator from Bihar's Buxar and his remark has raised hackles in his home state, where some locals have even approached the courts in protest.
"I have asked the director of AIIMs that patients who can be treated in Patna AIIMS should be referred there immediately," the minister said at a function recently. "There is no need to increase the crowds here... you know how patients flock here..."
The opposition claims his comments indicate that people from Bihar -- who bear the brunt of anti-migrant fervor in Maharashtra - now cannot go to Delhi for a cure.
Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal said Mr Choubey cannot order doctors to not treat patients from Bihar. "He is holding a ministerial portfolio at the Centre for the first time and has forgotten his responsibilities," said senior party leader Shivanand Tiwary.
The Bihar BJP and its ally, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, have moved into damage control mode. Bihar health minister Mangal Pande said he was at the event where Mr Choube was speaking.
"Everyone there understood the emotions of Ashwini Chaube," he said. It was clear that the minister meant patients from Bihar should go to Patna, so the AIIMS hospital there gets the required facilities, Mr Pande said. "Patna AIIMS should treat patients like the Delhi AIIMS," he added.
Admitting that the Delhi AIIMS is "national property" and no one can stop anyone from going there, senior JD(U) leader Ajay Alok asked why people would want to go to Delhi if adequate facilities exist in Bihar.
Mr Choubey, he said, knows about the problems of the people of Bihar and he should try to solve them. "AIIMS has been started in Bihar. He should make it just like AIIMS of Delhi, so that the people of Bihar don't have to go out of the state for treatment," he added.